Ross Clark lives and writes and teaches part-time (at two universities) in
Brisbane, Australia. He is the author of a chapbook of haiku, and 6
volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is REMIX: poems ancient &
modern, restoring to an audience a selection from his earlier volumes
(www.postpressed.com.au). 2005 will see the publication of a second
haiku chapbook, and also of a second poetry selection, RETREAD: poems
new & used. He frequently performs and tours his work, solo or as part
of The Bodgie Bards. For his contribution to Australian poetry, Clark
has received both the Australian Government's Centenary of Federation
Medal and a Johnno from the Queensland Writers' Centre.
Improbable Event #1
for Jessica Stone
Halfway up the mountain
to my friend's place, the road
a decade unfamiliar to me
and darkness already cloaking
its curves and drops, I chanced
upon them, hazard lights blinking,
stopped ahead at the intersection.
Someone in trouble, or more likely
lost and I probably could not help,
map-bound myself and grateful
there was only one road up, but aware
that the turn-off might elude me yet.
I drew past, pulled up, walked back.
Young tourist or student gets out
and inquires of me, we are looking
for the glow-worm farm, and I wonder
who is playing a trick on eager Japanese;
but he hauls a lap-top, glowing green,
from the car and shows its location
on the map he scrolls up and down.
They also cannot find their turn-off.
In their headlights I search
my fold-out map, compare it with
their screen, declare we both should
keep going, they may follow till I
turn off. (Why here, this husbandry
of glow-worms? And do they need
Minutes later I find my turn-off,
and several hands wave from
the hired Japanese car, now
just a few minutes from
their own destination.
Half-way up a mountain,
the lights of the coast behind them,
their tail-lights flickering,
their lap-top radiant,
they had waited in hope of
glow-worms. They were young,
and their map had promised them.
I collect feathers,
the white, black, grey ones of magpie, crow or galah,
the oil-pastel spectrum of lorikeet or budgerigar,
a kookaburra's henna and ochre brown.
I find them all by looking down,
though the discourse of birds is surely overhead
amongst the branches and wires and posts.
And amongst the birdsong, I hear it said
that I pursue this mania so one day I may boast
the colours of heaven on my lap,
the feather of an angel in my cap.
for Christobal Columb 23rd
What delight there was at school to discover that
some John or Craig was also Ernest or Albert, and
that all those Susans were also Delores or Muriel
or Gwenda as well! Even then I felt how different
my friends would be if known by those other names
that evoked an earlier age (deceased grandparents
remembered), or another country (how often Dragan
followed Tom, and Maria followed Jane). Likewise,
old allegiances and dalliances would be whispered
in a name like Tudor, or some war-dead uncle live
on, modified to Lesley or Donna; perhaps a famous
branch unwittingly donates its name, till Kendall
hangs on for generations. A wife may retrieve her
maiden name via the first daughter; a husband may
choose to recreate himself in his eldest son, via
a private repetition of his own name, more subtle
and less stifling than Junior (pronouncing fealty
even unto death). At school, I reckoned that some
deserved the stinkers they revealed only in their
signatures, and in official documentation, though
now I agree with my granpa (baptised Fredrick but
always called Jack) that everybody's name invokes
something of their essence. "By the first we mark
the fashion of the time," he said. "In the second
we recall tradition, and in the third we proclaim
the family that ties it all together. Three names
are given to us, three names are ours to take; if
we want another, we must make it for ourselves."
My four uncles took their turns
in the harbouring of me;
they stepped up to my boyish needs,
whatever they might be.
Uncle Four was quick and rude,
full of laughter and of schemes;
he did not stoop his heart too far
to join me in my dreams.
Uncle One was big and loud,
a man of doing and of jokes;
I was the young off-sider
in a pair of raucous blokes.
Uncle Two was kindly rough,
pursuit of women on his mind,
and I was at the age right then
to discover all their kind.
Uncle Three showed quiet resolve
and cared not to compete,
but chuckled low when random life
threw puzzles at his feet.
Your four uncles took their turns
in the growing up of you;
they protected all your boyish deeds,
whatever you might do.
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